By Bonny King-Taylor, the doggy lama, pet coach
For my last contribution to the Pet-wise column, I want to talk about the last thing any pet person wants to think about. I hope these tips help you in a time of trouble. But what I really hope is that you never need them!
4.5 million dog bites occur each year, and every hour of every day, somewhere, dogs are fighting. t’s be prepared so we can all avoid being becoming part of that statistic!
Practice prevention. Always walk strong. Meandering makes you and your dog a target. Assertive energy is your best defense. Never listen to loud music or talk on your cellphone while walking. A distracted brain and dimmed ears cannot scan the environment for potential problems or opportunities. If you absolutely have to make a call, stop inside a yard, so that your dog is protected while s/he waits. Do your best to avoid all distractions during your precious time alone with your dog!
Attitude is everything
If you are even slightly unsure about a person on the street, move away quickly and decisively. Never trust other people to have control of their dogs. If you call out, “Is your dog friendly?” and the other person hesitates at all, just scoot right along. Being polite to strangers is important, but your dog’s safety is your first priority.
Avoid eye contact. Do your very best to avoid staring in an aggressive dog’s eyes. That will do nothing but escalate a bad situation. If threatened, use those precious seconds to scan for a barrier or a weapon. Use strong body language. Use your voice ONLY to threaten. Do not scream or cower. A powerful step forward with a loud and low HEY!! deters many dogs.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to resist the urge to shout and speak to fighting creatures. Your voice will only add to the anxiety of the situation. Your strong, calm and determined energy will contribute the most to your success!
If you must strike an attacker, avoid using your hands. A stick, umbrella or backpack can serve as a useful distraction and cudgel. Get yourself and your dog behind a fence if possible and call for help. If the attacker grabs the object PUSH it toward the dog, rather than getting into a tug of war that you will probably lose.
If you routinely run into aggressive or off-leash dogs in your neighborhood, you might consider carrying lemon juice or vinegar in a spray bottle. Do NOT carry pepper spray. Inevitably, it will be YOU who is injured if the wind kicks up
If the worst happens
If the attacker latches onto your dog and you have no weapons, do not put your hands near the mouth of either dog. Get behind the attacker, grab the space between the knee and ankles of the back legs and pull back and away in a ‘throw it far away’ motion.
Be prepared to move as soon as you let go. Put yourself in front of the injured dog and/or get him behind a fence, even if that means picking him up and over. This is a VERY tough call. You want to avoid incurring greater injury, but if the attacker is doing his worst, you will not be able to stop it.
If, God forbid, you are attacked, give the dog your clothing or arm. Arm injuries are less serious than throat or trunk injuries. If you are knocked down, lace your fingers behind your head and protect your ears with your arms. Assume the tightest fetal position possible and be as quiet as possible. Do NOT run or scream. Do not act like prey.
After an attack: Do everything you can to get over the shock as soon as possible for the sake of your dog. Get angry if you must, but do not allow yourself to be swallowed up by fear. Call the police and Animal Rescue Alliance immediately to report the incident and to get emotional support.
Capture as much information as possible, including time, location, and photos. Seek medical attention for yourself and your dog, keeping in mind that some quick bite wounds are not immediately visible. And, every bite will get infected.
Keep in mind that dog fights on the street are thankfully rare. While there is no sure and 100% secure way to avoid attacks, if you keep your wits about you and think about what you would do, before you need to use those skills, chances are good you will never need them.
Stay safe out there!